The Fiorenza Forced Marriage - By Melanie Milburne

EMMA looked at the Italian lawyer in heart-stopping shock. 'There must be some sort of m-mistake,' she said, her voice wobbling with disbelief. 'How could I possibly be included in Signore Fiorenza's will? I was just his carer.'

'It is no mistake,' Francesca Rossi said, pointedly tapping the thick document in front of her. 'I have it here in black and white. Valentino Fiorenza changed his will a matter of weeks before he died.'

Emma sat in a stunned silence. She had lived with and nursed the multimillionaire for eighteen months and not once had she thought something like this would happen. 'But I don't understand...' she said after a moment. 'Why on earth would he leave me half of his estate?'

'That's exactly what his son has been asking,' Francesca Rossi said with a speaking glance. 'I believe he is on his way over from London as we speak. As his father's only remaining heir one can only assume he was expecting The Villa Fiorenza and the bulk of his father's assets to pass directly to him.'

Emma chewed at her bottom lip for a moment. 'You said the terms of the will are rather strange....'

'They are quite unusual,' Francesca agreed. 'In order to inherit your share you must be legally married to Rafaele Fiorenza within a month and stay married to him for a year.'

Emma felt her stomach drop like a gymnast mistiming a tricky manoeuvre on the bar. 'M-married in a month?' she croaked. 'For a year?'

'Yes, otherwise the estate in its entirety will automatically pass to a previous mistress of Valentino's, a woman by the name of Sondra Henning. Did he ever mention her to you?'

Emma wrinkled her brow. 'No, I don't think so...but then he was a very private man. He didn't talk much about anything, especially towards the end.'

The lawyer leafed through the document before looking back up at Emma. 'Signore Fiorenza stipulated that upon marriage to his son you are to receive a lump sum of fifty thousand euros, and then for every year you remain married to Rafaele you will receive an allowance,' she said. 'A rather generous one, in fact.'

Emma's stomach did another fall from the bar. 'H-how generous?'

The lawyer named a sum that sent Emma's brows shooting upwards. 'I guess it does seem rather a lot to walk away from...' she said, thinking of her sister's recent phone call. Fifty thousand euros at the current exchange rate would not completely solve Simone's financial situation, but it would certainly go a long way to help her get back on her feet.

'It is a lot to walk away from,' Francesca said. 'Even without factoring in the allowance, the villa, as you know from staying there, is considered one of the most beautiful showpieces around Lake Como. You would be a fool to forfeit such an asset, even a half share of it.'

'What is Rafaele Fiorenza like...I mean as a person?' Emma asked. 'I've seen photos of him in the press from time to time, but his father barely mentioned him. And as far as I know he wasn't at the funeral. I got the feeling there was bad blood between them.'

'I have not met him personally,' Francesca said. 'Apparently he left home when he was a young adult to study abroad. He is a high-flying stock trader now. But, yes, as you said he is often featured in gossip magazines throughout Europe and further abroad. Word has it he is a bit of a playboy and a very wealthy one at that.'

'Yes, I did get that impression,' Emma said, and then with another little crease of her brow added, 'but what if he doesn't agree to the terms of his father's will? If he's so wealthy why would he agree to be married to a perfect stranger?'

'The entire estate involves a great deal of money, even for a rich man,' Francesca said. 'Besides, the villa was where he spent most of his early childhood until he went to boarding school abroad. I cannot see him walking away from such a gold mine without at least inspecting the candidate his father chose to be his bride.'

Emma felt every fine hair on her body lift up like the fur of a startled cat. 'I haven't said I would agree to marry anyone,' she said, 'especially a man who didn't even have the decency to visit or communicate with his dying father.'

'Given he has had little or no contact with his father for the